PEGS-The Chain Episode 59

In this month’s episode of The Chain, host Ben Hackel, professor of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at the University of Minnesota, speaks with Gabriel Rocklin, assistant professor of Pharmacology at Northwestern University, about two recently published papers from Rocklin’s lab: one on advancing the ability to design challenging typologies and one on developing and leveraging a new technique on high-throughput protein biophysics. Rocklin shares the journey from ideation to realization of the research process, the inspiration that motivated the work, and interesting results and technological advancements discovered along the way. He also talks about the opportunities emerging from his team’s research and the challenges that still need overcoming, as well as offers advice for future scientists interested in protein biophysics.


Gabriel Rocklin, assistant professor of Pharmacology, Northwestern University
Prof. Rocklin earned his Bachelor's degree in Chemistry-Biology and History from Claremont McKenna College. He earned a Ph.D. in Biophysics at UCSF working with Ken Dill and Brian Shoichet. Prof. Rocklin was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of David Baker at the University of Washington. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Northwestern University. The Rocklin Lab has the following focus:

We develop high-throughput methods for protein biophysics and protein design, with a focus on protein therapeutics. Key questions include: How do protein sequence and structure determine folding stability, conformational dynamics, and resistance to aggregation/degradation-inducing stresses? Can we quantitatively predict these protein "phenotypes" from genotype (sequence) using computational modeling? How do we design protein therapeutics that optimize these phenotypes for a particular application? To answer these questions, we combine large-scale de novo computational protein design with high-throughput methods such as display selections, mass spectrometry proteomics, and next-generation sequencing, enabling us to test thousands of proteins in parallel. By combining these technologies, we seek to develop efficient "design-test-analyze" cycles, iterating our way to an improved, quantitative understanding of protein biophysics and more advanced protein therapeutics. 


Benjamin J. Hackel, Ph.D., professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Minnesota
Ben Hackel is a professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Minnesota. He earned degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin (B.S. 2003, advised by Eric Shusta) and MIT (Ph.D. 2009, advised by Dane Wittrup). He performed postdoctoral research in the radiology department at Stanford University (Sam Gambhir). Since its inception in 2011, the Hackel lab has applied protein engineering technologies to develop physiological, molecular targeting agents for molecular diagnostics and targeted therapy, focusing on oncology and infectious disease.

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